Shalom Austin Staff and Volunteer Spotlight

Shalom Austin Staff and Volunteer Spotlight

Mike Carranco: Chief Engineer

What is your role and what do you do at Shalom Austin?
I oversee both the Facilities Department and the Hospitality Department. This includes but is not limited to event setup, property management, contract management, shipping and receiving, security, maintenance, custodial services, vendor purchasing, office administration, contractor management, staff management, city and state compliance, commercial driving, politics and anything else the organization deems necessary.  

What is your background and what brought you to Shalom Austin?
 I was born and raised in San Marcos, Texas. During middle school and high school I worked with my father. I graduated from San Marcos High School in 1992. After high school, I continued to work as an apprentice under my father who ran his own electrical/HVAC business. Not long after high school I began working at the Walmart Distribution Center in New Braunfels. I managed and maintained the operations in the cross dock department. This department was a cross between shipping, receiving and order selecting. This also included communicating with inbound semi-trucks and assisting with the dynamic merging of freight and conveyor maintenance. Working for the Walmart Distribution Center is what sparked my interest in commercial driving. From there I went to work for 3-D Welding delivering hazardous material in South Central Texas. It is through my employment with 3-D Welding that I received my CDL. From 3-D I went to work for Ingram Ready mix where I drove a concrete truck. What attracted me to Shalom Austin then is what still attracts me now--the vibrant sense of community. I have been very fortunate to be a part of a wide variety of milestones within the Jewish community and with 2018 rapidly approaching I am excited to see what the future holds.

What do you feel has been your most rewarding experience so far?
There have been several rewarding experiences for me, but the one that resonates the most with me was being involved with the B’nai Abraham project. To see a 122-year-old historical landmark go from being almost condemned in Brenham to now being used every day was a sight to see. That project is a testament to the spirit (ruach) of this community. vimeo.com/139031235

What is your favorite part about working here?
My favorite part about working here at Shalom Austin is the unique opportunity to interact with a wide range of business professionals. Things can be hectic at times and sometimes very overwhelming but that is what makes it amazing. Shalom Austin challenges me to be a better person, to always work just a little bit harder and to always strive for excellence.

Describe any exciting programs or projects in the works.
There are a number of action items that I have my hand in, but the one that will have the most impact from an organization standpoint will be a new facilities work order platform. As some of you know, we have been actively working on this behind the scenes since January and we hope to go live January 2018.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about getting involved with Shalom Austin?
I would say welcome! Give them a tour to find out what they are interested in and then direct them accordingly. Over the years as I have done this and typically the question that comes up is, “what do you do here?” When people ask me what I do at Shalom Austin I tell them, “you name it and we do it.”  

Aaron Herbster: Facilities Manager

What is your role and what do you do at Shalom Austin?
I am the Facilities Manager and have worked at Shalom Austin for over 15 years. I, along with my colleague Mike Carranco, run the Facilities Department that handles maintenance and event-related needs. My role is geared more towards the events and hospitality side of the department in which I work with outside clients and congregations to book their events, set-up a majority of our daily events and do some maintenance around campus.

What is your background and what brought you to Shalom Austin?
I was born in Vancouver, B.C. and moved with my family to San Antonio when I was in grade school. I studied Russian at the University of the South in Sewanee, TN, but my passion has always been music. I worked in various trades including a sound engineer. I moved up to Austin in 2002 to join the rest of my then-bandmates and eventually answered a job listing to work in facilities here.

What do you feel has been your most rewarding experience so far?
There have been so many incredible memories from my tenure here, but there are three moments that really stand out: Both Maccabi Games we hosted here and bringing the B’nai Abraham synagogue onto campus. There was so much work involved in these events, but in the end, once they were done and the dust had cleared (literally and figuratively), I could look back with pride on what we, as a community, accomplished.

What is your favorite part about working here?
The people with whom I get to work every day. We all come from diverse backgrounds, but we all work towards a common goal: to provide the best experience for our members, guests and the community. Be it working out in comfort, enjoying the myriad programs we set up and host, attending services, or just enjoying the campus, our team is part of each experience and I absolutely enjoy working with them.

Describe any exciting programs or projects in the works.
I am looking forward to being a part of the growth and construction incorporated in the Generations Campaign. It is very exciting to envision what this campus will look like in a few years and how that, in turn, will help nurture this thriving community.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about getting involved with Shalom Austin?
This is an amazing place! It is constantly growing, warm and inclusive. There are opportunities to meet wonderful people, programs to help one learn about and embrace the Jewish tradition and culture, wonderful displays of art, and a strong sense of philanthropy and tikkun olam. Shalom Austin is where I feel and have always felt welcome.

Ian Spechler: Shalom Austin Volunteer

What is your role at Shalom Austin?
I am a vice chair on the Shalom Austin board of directors, chair of the Jewish Family Service Advisory Cabinet, a member of the Jewish Life and Learning Task Force and a member of the Shalom Austin Governance Committee. I am also president-elect of the University of Texas Hillel, an organization fortunate enough to receive money from the Shalom Austin Annual Campaign each year.

What made you decide to become a Shalom Austin volunteer?
Growing up, I had great Jewish leadership influences. My mother is currently on the board of directors of the Jewish Federation in Dallas and has always been active in her community. She demonstrated by example the importance of volunteering in the Jewish community when my sisters and I were kids. And my grandmother retired two years ago, after spending 60 years as a Hebrew School teacher in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. She actually taught herself Hebrew as an adult before turning around and inspiring multiple generations of fourth-graders.
I was active in Hillel as an undergraduate at University of Texas and then I was co-president of the Jewish Legal Society in law school. When I graduated law school and was lucky enough to remain in Austin, Dana Epstein reached out to me and encouraged me to become part of Shalom Austin’s Young Adult Division. I served on the board of YAD for five years. I also took part in the first class of J-Lead, Shalom Austin's young adult leadership development program, and was blessed to learn from Dana Epstein, Harriet Kirsh Pozen and Dana Baruch what it means to be a leader in the Austin Jewish community. Around that time, I met Lawrence Maze, who was then chair of the Jewish Family Service Cabinet and had an inspiring vision for JFS and its potential impact on all members of the Jewish community. He encouraged me to become a JFS cabinet member and my involvement in Shalom Austin took off from there. I still consider all of the above-mentioned people to be great mentors as I navigate leadership within Shalom Austin.

Why is volunteering important to you?
Chesed and tzedakah are vital parts of being Jewish. However, if volunteering were a painful exercise, it would be difficult to do more than the bare minimum. Fortunately, volunteering with Shalom Austin is one of the most enjoyable parts of my life. I have met so many wonderful people, including my amazing wife, Shaine Millheiser, through volunteering with Shalom Austin. I also can feel the impact my volunteering has, and it makes my day any time I get one of those reminders. I am always looking for new and creative ways to get involved. Any ideas are welcome.

What is your background?
I was born in Newton, Massachusetts, and grew up attending services and religious school at Temple Shalom. I moved to Dallas when I was in high school and then came to the University of Texas. I stayed at UT for law school and then became a public interest attorney at Disability Rights Texas, first as a Skadden Fellow, representing people with disabilities in a variety of settings, and then, for the past eight years, as an attorney ad litem for foster children with disabilities in courts across the state.
As of November 15, I have left Disability Rights Texas to serve as an administrative law judge at the State Office of Administrative Hearings, where I serve as an administrative law judge of cases across Texas in which parents sue a school district alleging a denial of appropriate special education services to their children.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about getting involved with Shalom Austin?
Do it! You will make an important contribution to your community, meet lifelong friends and grow to love Judaism even more than you do. If that's not enough, many volunteer opportunities come with free bagels. ■

Shalom Austin Receives 2017 Preservation Austin Stewardship Award

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